April 6, 2006

Cattle Rustling Being Revived From Old West Days By Rising Beef Prices

It used to be the good guy in the white hat would ride to the rescue of cattle ranchers being ravaged by the hordes of rustlers that pillaged across the Old West.

That same problem is popping up again in rural Missouri and a number of agencies and organizations are banding together to stop the problem.

In response to the growing number of cattle thefts in the state, Missouri Farm Bureau is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of individuals committing a felony in the theft of cattle from Farm Bureau members.

The theft of cattle in our state is a serious problem and should in no way be tolerated, said Charles E. Kruse, president of Missouri Farm Bureau. State law enforcement officials are committed to bringing these thefts to an end, and we want to provide citizens with an incentive to keep a watchful eye for suspicious activities in their communities.

Missouri experienced a large increase in cattle theft incidents in 2005. According to the Missouri Highway Patrol, cattle were reported stolen in 29 of Missouris counties in the last year. These incidents cost Missouri cattle producers an estimated $500,000.

Since the first of the year, hundreds of cattle have been reported as stolen in Missouri. That number includes the 11 steers and heifers, valued at $8,500, taken from a farm near Arbela back in January. The case remains open but the Scotland County Sheriffs Department likely will never be able to solve the crime since the animals are presumed to be long gone.

Investigators noted they interviewed the limited number of neighbors in the region and contacted area sale barns to check for similar animals being sold, but found no immediate leads.

According to law enforcement officials, the reporting of any information on theft activities is critical during the first 72 hours. Missourians can report suspicious activities to the Missouri Information Analysis Center by phoning 1-866-362-MIAC.

However, for many ranchers this is fairly difficult due to large numbers of animals and infrequent thorough reviews of pastures and farms.

Investigators note that todays rustlers arent riding off with the entire heard. In fact these thieves typically take advantage of their surroundings, finding isolated farms where they can utilize the same loading chutes that the farmer does, to load a few animals as quickly and quietly as possible. That not only avoids immediate detection, but also often allows plenty of time for the stolen animals to be relocated and then sold before the owner even notices them missing.

The crime spree is being fueled by the much improved beef market, which has seen increasing cattle prices make the animals more attractive to rustlers.

Farm Bureau is not alone in its efforts to take a bite out of crime.

The Missouri State Highway Patrols Division of Drug and Crime Control at the request of Governor Matt Blunt is assisting numerous other state and local agencies in battling the on-going cattle theft problem in Missouri.

As part of its efforts, the Patrol is encouraging all Missouri residents to monitor and pay special attention to any suspicious activity or circumstances in their respective communities and report any such activity immediately to law enforcement. These activities may include, but are not limited to: suspicious vehicle activity, truck and or trailer thefts, cattle thefts, feed thefts, livestock equipment thefts, trespassing attempts, unknown vehicle and/or persons loitering in the immediate area of livestock, suspicious inquires referencing livestock and the unusual transportation and/or sales of livestock.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol is also asking any victims of cattle theft who may not have reported the incident to come forward and report the theft.

Any person(s) with information regarding cattle thefts is encouraged to contact the Missouri Information Center at 866-362-6422 or your local law enforcement agency. This information will then be immediately forwarded to the Missouri Cattle Theft Task Force.

The Missouri Cattlemens Association is taking action to put an end to cattle theft. The MCA Board of Directors unanimously voted at their March meeting to permanently increase the MCA cattle theft reward fund from $2,000 to $5,000. The reward fund now offers $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals committing felony cattle theft against Missouri Cattlemens Association members.

In addition, two pieces of legislation have been introduced that would increase the penalty for cattle theft. The Missouri Cattlemens Association and Missouri Livestock Marketing Association are asking all livestock auction markets in the state to voluntarily keep photo identification on file of all farmers and ranchers selling cattle.

We are asking all Missouri auction markets to voluntarily obtain, and keep on file, photo identification of persons consigning cattle to a sale, said Moore. This ensures we have a name and address in the event questions arise as to ownership of cattle, and provides law enforcement agencies with a solid place to begin an investigation.

With the concerted efforts of all parties involved, I believe we can put an end to the cattle rustling problem in Missouri, continued Moore. I look forward to seeing the guilty parties behind bars.

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